Hi. I’m Mary Gelinas. For over 40 years I have dedicated myself as a consultant, educator, and facilitator to helping people have meaningful conversations about what really matters to them so they can do good things in the world. After all this time, it scares me to notice how many people, especially leaders, still talk in ways that divide people, create a sense of “us” and “them.” This is particularly true in political arenas where name-calling and epithet-hurling seem to abound.
But, here’s the rub. The only way to get things done is in conversations: one-on-one or in groups. We meet with co-workers on the job, talk with neighbors in our communities, and speak at public hearings in our cities. But, we’ve got a problem. A potentially disastrous one. The way we talk with one another these days does not work. The way we try to solve problems does not work. We are immobilized by not being able to talk across different points of view. Our ability to have constructive and productive interactions with our neighbors, co-workers, elected representatives, and bosses seems to have evaporated. We are becoming less and less able to deal with situations as they are becoming more and more serious. The need to bridge differences and work effectively together has never been greater. We can all name the serious social, environmental, economic, and political problems we face.
To figure out how I might help make interactions more constructive and productive, ten years ago I began a quest to understand what brain scientists were learning. I hoped this might inform what I know about effective interactions. As I read more, I became optimistic that the explosion in knowledge about the human brain would help me design and facilitate effective interactions. Perhaps more importantly, I also began to see how this knowledge would help participants in conversations be more effective, bring the best of who they are and what they know to the table.
I am very excited to have the opportunity to share with you what I have learned about a few of the keys to creating inclusive and fruitful interactions so that we can more skillfully tackle tough issues and create a sense of community among us. We really are all in this together.
Spoiler alert: two of the keys are (1) how to use the mind to manage the brain; and (2) how to turn bad meetings into good ones as they happen. You don’t have to be the victim of bad process!